Published May 23, 2017Watching this movie in 2017, when the sky is falling and people are calling for revolution, one might wonder how an out-of-touch trifle like Paris Can Wait ever got off the ground. Answers may be found in the surname of director Eleanor Coppola — yes, of those Coppolas — since neither exciting subject matter nor audience demand exist to justify this tame and plodding rom-com travelogue.
Diane Lane breezily plays Anne, the aimless wife of Alec Baldwin's workaholic film producer Michael. The distant yet affectionate couple are bouncing around Europe for Michael's work, but as they board yet another private jet — stop me when this get too relatable — a painful earache causes Anne to head to nearby Paris instead. Fortuitously, Michael's business partner Jacques (played with genuine sparkle by Arnaud Viard) is available to act as chauffeur. Anne's American efficiency dictates them reaching Paris by nightfall; her escort's Gallic joie de vivre derails them into three sumptuous days of fromage and flirtation in the most charming of French restaurants, villages and wineries.
Paris Can Wait is loosely based on a European jaunt that Coppola herself took in 2009 with her husband's colleague, and while it's refreshing to see two middle-aged leads and exactly zero superheroes on screen, the movie oozes self-indulgence. Anne is the type of wealthy, very slightly interesting white woman you'd find in most Nancy Meyers movies; her upper-class malaise is as dull as it is ambiguous, and there's precious little at stake in her tepid dalliance with pleasure — a weakness highlighted by Laura Karpman's score of incessant, easy-listening jazz. Also prominently featured are songs by Phoenix, whose lead singer just happens to be Coppola's son-in-law.
In her first narrative feature, Coppola shows her documentarian roots (her infamous Heart of Darkness captured her husband's breakdown on the set of Apocalypse Now) by allowing the camera to linger patiently on the actor's faces, catching subtle flickers of emotion. This approach backfires, though, when she also lingers on the banal small talk that composes much of the dialogue. Otherwise shot in a soft, sun-warmed focus, the director uses Anne's penchant for photography to frame and pause on little bits of vividness: a glass of pinot, a fresh bunch of carrots.
This inspires a measure of Instagram envy, but the device eventually tires when Lane yanks out a camera or phone for the hundredth time. Can filmmakers band together and figure out how to portray everyday technology use in a way that isn't so awkward? It would also be nice to see a film where a woman gets her groove back without the obligatory scene where she eats chocolate with her eyes closed, one indulgent step at a time.
As Anne and Jacques become closer while bantering and bickering their way through the cobblestoned streets, you may be reminded of similar over-fifties-meet-cute-while-abroad films like Cairo Time, Certified Copy, Last Chance Harvey or Bill Murray's half of Lost in Translation. However, Paris Can Wait's frustrating inability to inject any freshness to the subject marks it as an underwhelming addition to a burgeoning subgenre. Lane and Viard elevate the material with charismatic performances and gently sexy chemistry, but there is no redeeming the clunky dialogue of Coppola's forgettable road trip. Quel dommage.